The end of a Trump-era border policy next week will “likely increase migration flows immediately,” and migrants who are in encampments along Mexico’s northern border may attempt to cross into the United States, according to a Homeland Security intelligence memo reviewed by CNN.
Administration officials have been bracing for an influx of migrants when a public health authority, known as Title 42, ends next week. A federal judge last month blocked the use of the authority, which since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has allowed officials to turn away migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border.
The strain a surge of migrants will pose to already overwhelmed resources came into sharp focus this week in El Paso, Texas. The city is now grappling with over 2,000 migrants arriving daily, according to city officials.
The intelligence memo, from the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, underscores the concern within the administration over an increase in arrivals after Title 42 ends amid mass migration across the Western hemisphere and the role human smuggling organizations play in moving people. It’s been distributed within the administration and stakeholders.
“Human smuggling organizations will likely adjust their methods to successfully cross migrants into the United States and will employ social media and encrypted messages to fuel misinformation regarding US enforcement, judging from US government reporting,” the memo, dated December 12, reads.
The memo focuses on Venezuelan migrants who earlier this fall contributed to a rise in border encounters. Approximately 7 million Venezuelans have fled their country. In September, Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans accounted for almost half of encounters along the US southern border, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas underscored the whole of government approach in a statement, noting that mass movement of people around the globe has posed a uniquely difficult challenge.
“Despite our efforts, our outdated immigration system is under strain; that is true at the federal level, as well as for state, local, NGO, and community partners. In the absence of congressional action to reform the immigration and asylum systems, a significant increase in migrant encounters will strain our system even further,” he said in a statement.
In October, the administration rolled out a humanitarian parole program geared toward Venezuelans to encourage them to apply for entry into the United States instead of crossing unlawfully. Officials have since attributed a drop in crossings of Venezuelan migrants to that program. Those who did not apply were returned to Mexico under Title 42.
The administration, meanwhile, is considering expanding the parole program to nationalities, including Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans, according to two Homeland Security officials, to try to stem the flow of migration from those countries.
But the calculus of migrants may change when Title 42 lifts, the memo says.
“With Title 42 ending, Venezuelan migrants who previously considered returning to Venezuela or remaining in third countries to apply for legal pathways to enter the United States will likely recalculate their decision and transit north to the US Southwest border,” the memo says, noting that transit countries like Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama are already under strain.
The memo states that while migrants continue to travel, numbers are “unlikely to rebound over the next month to early October numbers if migrants believe they will be returned to Mexico.”
CNN previously reported that DHS is preparing for multiple scenarios, including projections of between 9,000 to 14,000 migrants a day, more than double the current number of people crossing.